Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Everyday Life Freezes into Burning Darkness

The destruction of Pompeii



Make wine-must rolls as follows: moisten a bushel of wheat flour with wine-must, add aniseed, cumin, two pounds of suet, a pound of cheese and some grated bay twig; after you have shaped them, place them on bay leaves and bake.

Marcus Gavius Apitius, De recoquinaria (On cookery), first century AD



Buried for centuries under lava: The Via dell'Abbondanza in the excavated city of Pompeii


In the year AD 79, on the morning of August 24, people in Pompeii were going to market. Pompeii was a Roman city of 15,000 inhabitants, small but prosperous. People who did not feel like cooking were going to one of the many public kitchens where soups and stews were bubbling on the fire. In its shops fresh chickens, fish, eggs, olive oil, herbs and dates were being sold. A baker and his wife were selling bread and rolls fresh from their oven. They had done well and had shown it by having the walls of their house decorated with colourful frescoes. One of them was the double portrait A Baker and His Wife. The baker holds a scroll which may have borne the text of the couple's marriage contract, his "master

baker's certificate" or perhaps a recipe. His wife is holding a stylus for writing and a wax tablet. Perhaps it signifies that she does the books for the bakery, perhaps she is proud of her literacy. The picture was probably intended to advertise the couple's success to future generations.

At ten o'clock in the morning of August 24, the fresco, the couple and the entire city were buried under a several-metre thick layer of ash, pumice and lava. Pompeii is situated at the foot of Mt Vesuvius, but the volcano had not stirred since the city was founded; nor was there any warning that it was about to erupt — much less that it was about to erupt in the way that it did. When Vesuvius blew the plug of its gigantic crater into the air, an apocalyptic hail of stones and millions of tons of hot ash made Pompeii as dark as night. People fled in panic into entries and cellars but there was no escape, the falling ash crushed buildings and burned through wooden floors. People passing through the forum were killed by falling columns. Sixty prisoners awaiting gladiatorial combat were suffocated where they were interned. The owner of the "Villa of Diome-des" died with the keys to his house m his hand. The lady of the "House of the Faun" was buried under the roof of her hall with the jewellery she had grabbed to take with her. The hot ash enveloped her neighbour's dog

where he was chained up. Pompeii was lost under a mountain of ash within a few hours; only a handful of people escaped.

Plinv the Younger 61—c.113) witnessed the inferno from the Bay of Naples as an eighteen-year-old. He wrote that, of the people in the area, "most prayed to the gods. Others, however, explained that there were no more gods anywhere; the last night on earth had plunged the world in eternal darkness". There was no question of rebuilding Pompeii, the ash hardened into rock and it was not until 1748 that the rediscovered ruins — especially some well-preserved interior frescoes — created a sensation throughout Europe. Along with neighbouring Herculaneum, which suffered the same fate, Pompeii provides us with incomparable evidence of what daily life was like in ancient Rome.

Anonymous, Roman
A Baker and His Wife
1st century AD
Wail painting from Pompeii
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples


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